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Debate archive: Governments and universities everywhere should compete to attract qualified students regardless of nationality or residence

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Economist Online Debate Series

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Click here to enter the Economist debate on this proposition, which is live December 12-21st, 2007. Below is an article that archives the results of this Economist debate proposition. Debatepedia is partnering with the Economist.com's Online Debate Series, helping frame and archive the arguments presented in their debates in Debatepedia's useful pro/con "logic tree" structure (see below).

Contents

Background and Context of Debate:

  • Economist.com debate series. Introduction to the question: "This house proposes that governments and universities everywhere should be competing to attract and educate all suitably-qualified students regardless of nationality and residence. Should countries limit the amount of foreign students admitted to its university programs? How do you educate on a global basis while still maintaining focus on national competitiveness? As markets and corporations increasingly become transnational, the nature of work and the skills required to execute that work, are changing. Ideally, what sort of education will the next generation of students need before they enter the global workforce? Is globalization already changing the nature of how students are being educated? What is the right thing for countries to do?"

Key pros and cons: A grouping of the most common/significant arguments in this debate

Yes

No

Market competition: Is open competition between educational institutions valuable?

Yes

  • Greater international competition between schools improves educational quality -
    The free markets have proven most effective in stimulating the production of the highest quality goods. They open entities to competition, making it necessary for them to produce higher-quality, more competitive goods. Since education can generally be viewed as a good or service, we can expect that it will benefit from these competitive forces. Encouraging students to freely cross borders is the best way to foster these competitive conditions. Students, in turn, will benefit from higher-quality educational products internationally.



No

  • The free markets are not reliable, particularly in the education industry - While it is often assumed that a competitive, free-market environment will generate the best products, this assumption is faulty, particularly in regards to education. The free markets are not accountable to democratic governments, nor the interests of the citizens that elect those governments. Educational systems, however, deeply depend on the feedback and influence of citizens within the context of a democratic process. For this reason, the unfettered free markets cannot be an appropriate place for education.


Students: Would the proposition benefit individual students and learning generally?

Yes

  • The best minds in the world deserve the best education in the world - In the context of a global worldview, merit should determine where a student goes to school. This is the case, typically, on a national level, with such notions as "equal opportunity" being commonly accepted. With increased global integration, equal opportunity should now be the case on a global scale.

No

  • Higher education is not an international human right - Education is a privilege. But, it is not something that is essential to life. While it may be essential to happiness and fulfillment, this could never be considered a criteria for elevating education to the status of a right, whereby governments would be obligated to provide it universally to their citizens. Additionally, private universities are good examples of institutions that cannot be obligated to provide education; they choose to provide it as a market good that individuals are willing to pay for.

Universities: Would universities benefit from the proposition?

Yes

  • ( Greater international competition between schools improves educational quality) - The free markets have proven most effective in stimulating the production of the highest quality goods to "beat-out" the competition. Since education can be viewed, in some ways, as a good or service, it can benefit from openness to competition with greater cross-border fluidity. This will benefit universities themselves, forcing them to strive to the highest international standards. Because students will benefit, the general standing of universities in the public mind will benefit.


No

  • Schools often need to meet domestic over foreign needs - Community colleges, for example, have a clear domestic focus. They are designed primarily to meet the needs of local communities and students. State/provincial universities often also have a mandate to provide for the citizens of their geographic area. They should not be obligated to pursue foreign students at all, although they are welcome to deem it valuable if they are meeting their domestic demand. It should not be forgotten that, given limited educational resources, a foreign student typically "takes the spot" of a domestic student. This is particularly problematic in the context of taxpayer money being spent on an educational system, presumably to ensure the education of those taxpayers' children.

National security: Is an "open" policy to foreign students good for national security?

Yes

  • "Qualified" foreign students are inherently not national security threats - The proposition refers to "qualified" foreign students, which inherently excludes national security threats, such as terrorists. It presumes that governments and universities are capable of taking the appropriate measures to determine what foreign students are "qualified" and not a national security threat.


No

  • Foreign student visas are a national security vulnerability - It is well documented that terrorists have successfully exploited foreign student visa programs. A number of 9/11 terrorists did so. This is a major concern for countries, and instituting controls to counter this threat is a natural response. If this limits some students from entering a foreign study program, this is an acceptable cost for taking measures that could save the lives of thousands of people. It should be kept in mind that the victim of a terrorist attack is deprived of life and all their freedoms and rights, while a foreign student that does not get into a foreign program due to security measures is deprived of only a limited range of opportunities; the trade-off is acceptable.


Taxpayers: Is the proposition fair to taxpayers?

Yes

  • The benefits of foreign students outweigh the immediate costs to taxpayers - Foreign students bring many economic benefits to the host countries in which they study. Taxpayers will see increased economic productivity in their area as well as many other less tangible, long-term benefits to the vibrance of the community and its prospects in the global marketplace. Therefore, taxpayers should have few doubts that their tax dollars will be well spent in helping fund foreign students.



No

  • Foreign students are costly to governments - States very on the extent to which education is subsidized by taxpayers, but some provide free public education, such as Germany. Germany has seen foreigners almost abuse this system, coming into the country for a free education, straining the country's resources, and generally diminishing the quality of the educational experience there. This is unfair to governments and taxpayers.

Host countries: Does a nation have an interest in adopting the proposition?

Yes





No

  • A state cannot be denied its right to evaluate prospective foreign students - In international law, a state is obviously free to pursue whatever they feel is in their national interests. If a country deems a measure of exclusivity in its school systems to be within its own interests, who's to say that it should open its borders. Certainly, there is no international legal basis for this occurring as states are free to pursue their national interests.
  • Governments must foster manufacturing manpower by educating nationals - A country's manufacturing base comes from its own population. Given that it is important for most countries to foster a manufacturing base, it makes sense that a country would be exclusive to foreigners in the context of ensuring that a domestic manufacturing base is well trained.

Home countries: Would the proposition benefit the home countries that students leave?

Yes



No

Global interests: Is the proposition in the broadest interests of the world?

Yes

  • Internationalized education is necessary to producing global problem-solvers - The world faces global challenges, including global warming, international trade and globalization, and international conflicts. Borders are becoming increasingly irrelevant to these problems, and global solutions must be designed to solve them. This starts with fostering global leaders in internationally open schools. It also involves the best schools in the world competing for the greatest talent in the world so that the very best problem-solvers can emerge as our future leaders.
  • The demand for global education is not being met - If there is demand for global education we should allow for it to be freely met. This is the basic principal of market economics that has benefited the world without fail since Adam Smith. It should be applied to education as well, with schools and governments competing to meet a demand that has exceeded supply as of late.



No

  • "Brain drain" in developing countries is a cost of international openness to foreign students -
    In the global context, there is the potential that "brain drain" will lead to increased socio-economic stratification globally. While sending the best minds to the best schools might be best for overall global GDP production, it might not be best for the more equal distribution of wealth globally. Obviously, the best schools in the world also happen to be in the wealthiest countries in the world, where there is a strong attraction for foreign students to stay and earn as much money as possible (all within their interests). This all means that the proposition would see the greatest and most productive minds go to the wealthiest countries in the world, and disproportionately benefit these wealthy countries. While this might produce the most overall global economic output, is this situation what we want to foster if it sees increased socio-economic stratification in favor of wealthy countries? No. There's enough wealth in developed countries already. Far more people are poor in the world than wealthy. We need to create policies that bring the world's poor out of their tragic circumstances. Opening top universities in poor countries is an important part of this. Or, exporting Western Universities abroad, like Georgetown and other schools did in Qatar, is also a good solution that would decrease stratification.
  • A state cannot be denied its right to evaluate prospective foreign students - The nation-state continues to have a very important role in the world. Those that advocate heavily for boundaryless globalization should recognize that this involves substantial costs to the democratic processes that are ensured only within nation states. How would citizens voice themselves in a world without national representative, democratic governments? At least, global governance has not yet risen to a level that could replace nation states in this way.

See also

External links and resources:


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